Thursday, February 13, 2014

Evaluation Day: Contemplating if He is (still) Mr. Right

Although Valentine's Day is meant to be about love and romance, it is a holiday that can lead to just the opposite. Besides fueling the profits of Hallmark and ProFlowers, the day can be a catalyst for dissolving or ruining relationships. For those of us thinking about a new relationship after a messy and emotional divorce, the day can take on another meaning: Evaluation Day.

Valentine's Day is all about expectations: meeting them, exceeding them or failing to match them. Women, especially, use the day to evaluate their significant other, and a poor result can lead to a dramatic turn of events. A recent study of divorce filings in New York, Illinois and California by, a legal referral site, found that February is the busiest month for divorce filings, with a rise of almost 18% above the average month. In addition, those seeking referrals for a divorce lawyer increased 38% after the holiday, with the biggest spike occurring on the day after. The seedy affair site, Ashley Madison, reports that the top two days for women to sign up are Valentine's Day followed by Mother's day.

While many women feel pressure on the day, it can be greater for those of us who are divorced. If you are not currently in a relationship, memories of Valentine's past can haunt you, even if your ex in that vision is a now a cad. If you are involved in a relationship, Evaluation Day can loom even larger, but for different reasons. Wiser and older, and often with children to care for, dating divorcees not only imagine a future, but we  compare it to the past, all while measuring against peers, personal romantic ideals and societal conceptions. The specter of not wanting to be wrong twice cannot be avoided.

With the day fast approaching, a close friend called me to chat. She was wondering what to think of her boyfriend now that they had been dating for close to a year. For her, as with most of us, time in a new relationship is an important marker. No one really wants to be alone, but that does not mean that both people want the same things. Time has a way of clarifying goals, especially when you have had your previous expectations altered so dramatically. For her, the day marked a specific moment to think about these questions in an organized, logical manner.

In a perfect world, we might be able to actually ignore Evaluation Day, but we live in the real world. So what should we do? Rather than focus on the flower arrangement or chocolate box, we can look at what that person really means to us. John Gottman, noted psychology professor and relationship expert, says the key to marital success is friendship. He defines the crucial steps to happiness with a partner as 1) knowing each other intimately, 2) demonstrating kindness and respect for one another every day and 3) genuinely taking pleasure in doing things together.

If you buy into Professor Gottman's view, Valentine's Day can shine a light on your current relationship and offer insight into whether it should and will last. Does his gift, or lack of it, reflect intimate knowledge of you? This could include type, cost and any other criteria. Maybe he knows you think the day is a scam, so he simply kissed you hello and rubbed your feet while binge-watching Breaking Bad. Maybe he found you that perfect pair of sapphire earrings. Does the day, like each and every one, showcase his kindness and respect? Does he hold the door for you, or perhaps not, given your take on that act? Does he evaluate your viewpoint instead of simply acting as if he is paying attention? What about the pleasure of being with you? Does he smile at the sight of you, whether you look fresh or disheveled? Does he care whether you agree to the planned dinner out or ask to stay at home instead?

Hopefully, for those of us thriving or attempting to do so after divorce, this year's Evaluation Day will bring us the satisfaction of knowing we are doing just what we want to do with that special someone (or, happily on our own).


  1. I am now inspired to do some serious evaluating!!!! Thank u Ms Book

  2. love the advice- the idea that not every relationship is the same and that you need to evaluate his presentation based upon your own experience. there's not a "one-size fits all" guide to valentines day!